While Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals have been knocked out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2012, they have been chiefly responsible in making it an interesting season. Despite being the weaker sides of the tournament, their performances have been heartwarming and the emergence of young talent is ample evidence of it. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes why Rajasthan and Punjab can be proud of their IPL 2012 campaign.
With three off the four play-offs spots sealed, the uncertainty and excitement of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2012 is drawing to a close. Even during the final round of the league stages, a number of teams were in contention for a berth in the knock-outs. The performances of unfancied teams – Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab – and the relative inconsistencies of the 2011 finalists – Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings – are chiefly responsible for making the IPL 2012 the most open ever.
Despite the absence of the big-names in their ranks, Rajasthan and Punjab have done remarkably well in the IPL 2012. They looked inspired and up for the challenge and fought hard against the stronger sides. While Rajasthan started the season very well and then lost its way, Punjab’s resurgence added spice to the entire competition. The biggest plus point from their respective campaigns is the emergence of young talent and the way they used the IPL to make an impression.
Rajasthan’s dream run in the inaugural IPL in 2008 set the bar very high – something they haven’t been able to emulate in the following seasons. During the ongoing season, there were glimpses of an encore of 2008 as they thrilled the fans with brilliant performances. However, failure to capitalise on big opportunities was their ultimate undoing. Had they won the game against Delhi Daredevils – one that was in their control till the dying stages- and the one against Chennai at Jaipur, things could have been very different.
Nevertheless, the performance of Ajinkya Rahane has been the highlight of the season for them. His classical approach to the T20 format comes as a refreshing change in the age of power batting. He is a class act and has made a statement with this fantastic run. It would be a huge gaffe to ignore him for the Indian team as he has proven that he can play the shortest format with great consistency. When coupled with his exploits in first-class cricket, the arguments for his inclusion strengthen big time. The batting partnership with Rahul Dravid seems to have worked for him as he would have picked a number of tips from the master.
Apart from Rahane, Rajasthan have unearthed the potential of Kevon Cooper. The West Indian was a relatively unknown quantity prior to the IPL. His all-round contributions were vital for Rajasthan’s success early on and it provided the right balance for them in the absence of Shane Watson.
Ajit Chandila was another success story as his hat-trick stormed the Pune Warriors India. He may not have played too many games, but he gives Rajasthan hope for the next year.
Punjab seems to be the factory of young talent in the IPL 2012. The number of young players they have discovered during the season is simply phenomenal. Their resurgence in the competition was brilliant as they made rapid strides with each passing game. They were without the services of Adam Gilchrist for a major part of the season, but David Hussey more than compensated for it as he led from the front with brilliant performances.
When Hussey took over, Punjab had won only two out of their five games and he had to fill into the big shoes of Adam Gilchrist – something that would have been a huge challenge. However, that is when they started turning it around as the youngsters picked up their performances and the addition of Azhar Mahmood added depth to the line-up. The most striking feature of their campaign was their spirit. It was very evident with the way they fielded and in their general body-language on the park. That was a major factor in their resurgence as they beat some of the strongest sides – Mumbai Indians, Bangalore and Chennai – on their own turf.
In a previous article which listed the finds of the season, most of them were Punjab players.
Mandeep Singh has been brilliant with the bat and has shown the ability to play good cricketing shots even while upping the ante. His fielding too has been impressive as he moves fast across the park and isn’t afraid to throw himself around.
Parwinder Awana’s brisk pace and wicket-taking ability gives hope to a country that hasn’t produced too many fast bowlers.
Nitin Saini was impressive with the gloves and the bat – a strong contender to take up Gilchrist’s spot in the future for Punjab as the Australian has hinted at retirement.
Gurkeerat’s temperament in the face of adversity won him the hearts of millions and they would be looking forward to a consistent performance next season.
On the final day of the league stages, one of the two finalists of 2011 would be knocked out. Bangalore have a chance to storm into the play-offs at the expense of the defending champions Chennai. Considering the strength of the respective teams, it is astonishing that they find themselves in such a situation.
Chennai haven’t been the force they were in past seasons and their failure to maintain the stronghold over their fortress at Chepauk signifies that struggle. Bangalore didn’t play to potential for sometime, but things are falling in place at the right time. They should make it through to the next round – barring an upset to the Deccan Chargers.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)